Coal plant closeup

Photo credit Erica Dellwo.

Avista Utilities has a reputation for supporting renewable energy in Eastern Washington—so why do they still power our homes and businesses with dirty out-of-state coal from Montana’s Colstrip Generating Facility?

Avista’s Reliance on Coal Power

The largest source of U.S. carbon pollution is burning fossil fuels for electricity. And Colstrip stands near the top of its industry according to the US. Environmental Protection Agency. Eastern Washington already faces the impacts of climate change including longer wildfire seasons, reduced snowpack and extended droughts. Meanwhile, Colstrip pumps more than 15 million tons of carbon pollution into the air every year from burning sub-bituminous coal from a nearby mine. That’s equal to the carbon pollution from half of all passenger cars in Washington State. Overall in Washington, coal provides about 20 percent of the state’s power but contributes more than 80 percent of its greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector.

And Colstrip’s threats extend to our state’s bottom line. Last year, Colstrip’s three Washington state owners—Avista, Pacific Power and Puget Sound Energy—spent more than $180 million out-of-state in exchange for the plant’s dirty coal energy. Colstrip faces potential fines and pending lawsuits for air and water quality violations from its electrical generation facility, making it a risky supplier for Washington business and family energy customers. The Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission has previously told another Colstrip owner, Puget Sound Energy, that continuing to throw money at Colstrip “could be harmful to PSE, its ratepayers and the broader public interest.”

100 with solar panels

Photo credit Erica Dellwo.

Washington customers are ready for a change. This year for Earth Day, nearly 100 people posed with solar panels in front of a 30-foot-tall inflatable coal plant in Riverfront Park. The massive prop called attention to Avista’s continued use of Colstrip. It’s time for Avista to take the next step in its sustainability leadership by replacing coal power with renewable energy.

The benefits for Eastern Washington are clear. A recent study by Synapse Energy Economics Inc. found that replacing Washington’s coal with wind, solar and energy efficiency could create up to 4000 jobs. Eastern and Central Washington have significant potential to be clean energy business leaders; communities like Yakima see more sunshine each year than Phoenix, Ariz, and wind energy companies already operate in locations like the Columbia Gorge.

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Filed under: Environment

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